Dec 29, 2013

Obamacare Enrollment Saturation Map [LINK]

The map is based on the latest data from The square shows what 100% of each state's targeted enrollment would look like. Each state displays a saturation based on a percentage of its target enrollment.

Jun 4, 2012

Another Privacy Breach [LINK]

To prevent this from happening, go to Home → Account Settings → Public Information → Location → Elections → Your Voting Habits, then deselect the "Allow others to see my voting habits?" option. From Home → Account Settings → Public Information → Location → Political Donations, choose the "None of your damn business!" option. Also, don't forget to uncheck the "Intimidate me in the future?" option.

Sep 13, 2011

Protecting Our President Against Baseless Smears [LINK]

There's a crazy rumor going around that the Obama campaign is gathering names for a Nixon-style "enemies list." Not so. It's a baseless smear that appears to be emanating from the Drudge Report. If you encounter such hateful rhetoric, I urge you to report it at this site.

May 5, 2011

It comes every year [LINK]

From the Concord Journal of Massachusetts, May 5-11, 2011:

Decorated with blue face paint, and clothes covered with blue and silver streamers (and a wetsuit underneath to keep warm -- though later she coddled a cup of coffee as well), Musketaquid co-founder and steering committee member CC King waded in the cool spring waters and spoke from her heart about what residents can do to keep the earth alive.

"What are you willing to do away with to leave a sustainable earth?" she posed, one in a string of questions related to keeping water and air clean for future generations. "...For the children of fox, for the children of these oak trees... for your children's children's children."

With the crowd echoing in round, a chorus broke out in a guttural baritone.

"River take me away, away, to the ocean," they sang.

Dozens down by the river echoed King's lyrics, as twice as many looked on from the Lowell Road Bridge overhead. Many seemed to be in a trance of sorts, in awe and appreciation of the ceremony.

"This is amazing; we're majorly in love with the earth and protecting it," said Virginia Hines, who stood on the bridge with her husband Sheldon.

Apr 8, 2011

Axiom: Continuity of Government Services [LINK]

Axiom: Interruptions in government services caused by effort to reduce spending? Dangerous, potentially catastrophic. But when inspired by effort to preserve collective bargaining rights? Healthy expression of the democratic process.

Mar 1, 2010

Sense from Senselessness [LINK]

In a much-discussed post, NRO Online's Andy McCarthy says that Democrats' apparent willingness to force the massive health care bill through the reconciliation process is perfectly rational as a means of achieving long-term goals, even amid signs of massive voter backlash. Conservatives such as McCarthy are thus now grappling with much the same paradigm shift as occurred among the defense establishment after September 11, when they recognized the new unfamiliar threat of extremely zealous people willing to commit suicide on behalf of their cause.

Feb 22, 2010

The Weirding of Thomas Friedman [LINK]

In the wake of the CRU climategate and associated scandals surrounding the IPCC's influential assessment reports, Thomas Friedman's New York Times column on "global weirding" comes as a rhetorical cry for help. Read it in full, then judge whether any of my bite-sized comments make sense.

  1. Cold, precipitous weather in the south and warm weather in the Pacific Northwest are typical weather patterns for winters in El NiƱo years. You might even say they're its defining characteristics.
  2. Recent research on the Australian drought has settled on a similar oscillation in the Indian Ocean, with one recent paper providing explicit reason to dismiss increased CO2 as a significant cause.
  3. Friedman argues, correctly, against those who summarily declare that recent heavy snowfall in Washington D.C. serves to disprove global warming. However, he repeats much the same error in casually assigning global warming as the cause.
  4. We used to have "global warming," then we switched over to the more vague term "climate change." I'm not sure if "global weirding" is even more vague, but the point remains: we have traveled from a fairly specific, testable assertion to one that is largely unfalsifiable. Weather patterns trending in any direction might serve as evidence.
  5. Unexpected, outlying, or so-called "weird" weather events are, in fact, quite common, and to be routinely expected given natural variability.
  6. The idea that the "most violent storms" would become "more numerous" is one of the assertions the IPCC was recently found to have made without required proper support from the peer-reviewed literature.
  7. "The hots are expected to get hotter, the wets wetter, the dries drier" ... Amusing that he doesn't go so far as to say that "weirding" makes cold weather even colder, since it's the frigid temperatures throughout the northern hemisphere that made this winter particularly weird, even more so than the local precipitation events. It's not every day people die of hypothermia in Cuba. (Perhaps it would have been too weird for Friedman to say that weirding makes cold weather even colder.)
  8. The hook Friedman uses in his lede is quite disingenuous. There are plenty of substantial grounds for skepticism, yet he focuses on only the most flippant.
  9. While it's true that snowfall in D.C. does not actually disprove global warming, it's certainly legitimate to rub your nose in it to the extent that past outlying episodes of warm weather have been routinely cited as confirmation.
  10. It strikes me as very bad advice for scientists to go on the offensive in trumpeting their climate certainties, when that's exactly the sort of thing that got the CRU & IPCC into such trouble to begin with that they're now struggling to regain their credibility.
  11. Likewise, how is it a good idea that we produce a 50-page report "in language that a sixth grader could understand" on the state of climate science? The IPCC currently produces a large, relatively rigorous document that is boiled down into a much shorter summary document for the benefit of policy-makers and journalists. Most complaints about how the IPCC publishes misleading and exaggerated information concern these dumbed-down summaries. How would the document Friedman describes be formed any differently?
  12. Why should this document only highlight wild exaggerations made by one side? What about the pervasive and false assertion that ice is about to disappear from the North Pole?
  13. "Climate experts can't leave themselves vulnerable by citing non-peer-reviewed research or failing to respond to legitimate questions." Well, this certainly understates the matter, doesn't it? It's not just that the IPCC cited non-peer-reviewed research claiming rapid melting of Himilayan glaciers; it's that it cited bogus, made-up material from activist groups. Likewise, it's not that members of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit simply failed to respond to legitimate questions; it's that they broke the law by evading freedom-of-information requests for data used to support their scientific conclusions.
  14. And what would a climate change article be without a sweeping insinuation about how skeptics are funded? "From the oil and coal companies that finance the studies skeptical of climate change to conservatives who hate anything that will lead to more government regulations"... Note that the latter are characterized as ideologues, while the former are presumably only in it for the money, a rather flexible range of poisonous characterizations.
  15. Accusations of irrational ideological bias can certainly cut both ways. Global warming adherents often see their cause as a moral crusade. If we are indeed on the verge of global catastrophe, with little sign that people are willing to significantly reduce their energy consumption, and little sign of high yields from "renewable" energy sources, wouldn't there be a whole lot more enthusiasm for nuclear power?
  16. Appealing to the precautionary principle, Friedman says "investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency and mass transit" makes sense as a form of "insurance." Actually, what we are being asked to do is dramatically lower our energy consumption, which comes at great cost to living standards, and by all accounts would barely reduce CO2 levels or temperature. Such "investments" may arguably be a good idea on their own terms independent of climate panic, but they may just as well be a fantastic waste of time and effort that would be better spent on some more productive end.
  17. Friedman says that regardless of the effects of climate change, rising population means increased demand for renewable energy. Not exactly. It means increased demand for energy from any source, including fossil fuels.
  18. Finally, ice ages do not come and go "slowly." I don't know where he gets this stuff. Here are temperature readings from the last few hundred thousand years, from Antarctic ice core data from the NOAA. Click to enlarge: Granted, the word "slowly" depends on your time frame, but nonetheless those are some pretty wild 10-degree swings. That thick little squiggle on the right, by the way, represents the entire development of human civilization, during what appears to be an unusually sustained warm period. I can think of one "investment" that may be a prudent form of "insurance": come up with any way imaginable to engineer the climate to keep us from dropping into another of those ice ages.

Feb 12, 2010

Tricky [LINK]

Didn't we just have a big to-do about the special meaning of the word "trick" when used by climatologists? Let's do it again!

Jan 10, 2010

Climatologists are Super Smart! [LINK]

From an article, by Robert Frank in the New York Times, on the response of the great economist Ronald Coase to the problem of carbon dioxide abatement:

Climate scientists agree that the cheapest way to combat global warming is to curb carbon dioxide emissions. And economists agree that the cheapest way to do that is by changing emitters’ incentives, either by taxing emissions or requiring emission permits.

At least this odd sequence of statements doesn't suggest economists agree that the cheapest way to combat global warming is to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Nowhere in the article is there any sign that Coase himself was asked this more fundamental question.

Frank finds it "puzzling" that conservatives and libertarians who have made Coase their "patron saint" world object to either carbon taxes or cap-and-trade proposals, which are based on Coase's pioneering work. But one can simultaneously believe that these proposals offer the best way to reduce CO2, but that reducing CO2 is not the most efficient way to address global warming.

Jan 8, 2010

Abolish Sociology [LINK]

From an introductory sociology exam, found in a public room in a college in the eastern United States:

Question: How does the United States "steal" the resources of other (third world) [sic] countries?

Answer: We steal through exploitation. Our multinationals are aware that indigenous people in developing nations have been coaxed off their plots and forced into slums. Because it is lucrative, our multinationals offer them extremely low wage labor [sic] that cannot be turned down.

Question: Why is the U.S. on shaky moral ground when it comes to preventing illegal immigration?

Answer: Some say that it is wrong of the United States to prevent illegal immigration because the same people we are denying entry to, [sic] we have exploited for the purpose of keeping the American wheel spinning.

Question: Why is it necessary to examine the theory of cumulative advantage when it comes to affirmative action?

Answer: Because it is unfair to discredit the many members of minority groups that have [sic] been offered more life chances through the program.

Question: What is the interactionist approach to gender?

Answer: The majority of multi-gender encounters are male-dominated. for [sic] example, while involved in conversation, the male is much more likely to interrupt. Most likely because the male believes the female's expressed thoughts are inferior to his own.

Question: Please briefly explain the matrix of domination.

Answer: the [sic] belief that domination has more than one dimension. For example, Males [sic] are dominant over females, whites over blacks, and affluent over impoverished.

(via Critical Mass)

Jan 7, 2010

Opacity, not Openness [LINK]

To be fair, if you believed Obama's campaign promise to open up congressional health-care sausage-making to C-SPAN, you should have your head examined.

Here's the sort of dissembling that led to led to Cafferty's uncharacteristic anti-Democratic rant:

Dec 27, 2009

Hemingway's Tom and Jerry Moments [LINK]

From a list, compiled by Paul Johnson for his book Intellectuals, of injuries sustained throughout the life of Ernest Hemingway:

As a child he fell with a stick in his mouth and gouged his tonsils; caught a fishhook in his back; sustained injuries at football and boxing. The year 1918 saw him blown up in the war and smash his fist through a glass showcase. Two years later, he cut his feet walking on broken glass and started internal bleeding by falling on a boat-cleat. He burned himself badly smashing up a water-heater (1922), tore a foot ligament (1925) and had the pupil of his good eye cut by his son (1927). In spring 1928 came the first of his major drinking accidents when, returning home, he mistook the skylight cord for the lavatory chain and pulled the whole heavy glass structure down on his head, sustaining concussion and needing nine stitches. He tore his groin muscle (1929), damaged an index finger with a punch bag, was hurt by a bolting horse and broke his arm in a car smash (1930), shot himself in the leg while drunk and trying to gaff a shark (1935), broke his big toe kicking a locked gate, smashed his foot through a mirror and damaged the pupil of his bad eye (1938) and got two more concussions in 1944, by driving his car into a water tank in the blackout and jumping off a motorcycle into a ditch. In 1945, he insisted on taking over from the driver to take Mary to Chicago airport, skidded and hit a bank of earth, breaking three ribs and a knee and denting his forehead (Mary went through the windscreen). In 1949 he was badly clawed playing with a lion. In 1950 he fell on his boat, gashing his head and leg, severing an artery and concussing himself for the fifth time. In 1953 he sprained his shoulder falling out of his car, and that winter there was a series of accidents in Africa: bad burns while drunkenly trying to put out a brush fire, and two plane accidents, which produced yet another concussion, a fractured skull, two cracked spinal discs, internal injuries, a ruptured liver, spleen and kidneys, burns, a dislocated shoulder and arm, and paralysed sphincter muscles. The accidents, which usually followed drinking, continued almost to his death: torn ligaments, sprained ankle climbing a fence (1958), another car crash (1959).

Dec 18, 2009

Not Exactly on Message [LINK]

This image came from the "americagov" Flickr stream, an account run by the U.S. government: Here is the caption text:

"Brad Pitt is Saving Planet Earth in Copenhagen"... a fun experimental project that will feature 12 non-Brads dressing up like the megastar to promote climate change action.
Could anything better get across the point: not what it pretends to be?

Dec 17, 2009

The Gandhi Nobody Knows [LINK]

After the adulatory film Gandhi was released in 1983, the film critic Richard Grenier wrote one of the all-time best take-downs, which is available here in the Commentary archives. In a nutshell, here's what you didn't know about the guy:

  • Gandhi was overall obstinate, intolerant, and tyrannical. Many of his contemporaries believe his erratic behavior actually delayed Indian independence.

  • Gandhi was greatly concerned about the rights of Indians in South Africa, but not at all about South African blacks.

  • Gandhi's concern for low-caste Hindus was minimal. Like many Hindus, Gandhi believed one's caste was indelible in this life, and that karma affected status only following reincarnation. (His first "fast unto death" was in response to a British proposal to increase the status of "Untouchables.")

  • Gandhi was unconcerned with indigenous movements outside of India, and was opposed, for example, to a similar rise in Arab nationalism amid the decline of the Ottomon Empire.

  • Gandhi advised Jews and Czechs to commit mass suicide in the face of the Nazis, and exhorted the British to surrender, all based on the mistaken notion that Hitler was "not a bad man," and could be persuaded via nonviolence. Gandhi sent a correspondingly naive letter to Hitler himself.

  • Oddly, when World War II started, Gandhi contradicted himself by endorsing Poland's military resistance, referring to it as "almost nonviolent."

  • Undermining British efforts considerably, Gandhi made preparations to allow incursion of the Japanese army into India via Burma, after which he intended to "make them feel unwanted."

  • While Gandhi championed nonviolence to throw off English control, he often abandoned the ideal during the bloody partition of 1947, during which roughly 1 million people were killed in religious violence.

  • The great Indian poet Tagore regarded Gandhi's direct confrontations with the British as so reckless and fanatical that any claims to being "nonviolent" were disingenuous. While Gandhi's core followers used nonviolent tactics, the multitudes of hangers-on that vastly outnumbered them were not so controlled.

  • Gandhi was greatly concerned with the bowel movements of those around him, and constantly gave and received enemas. A large portion of his writings concern excretia.

  • Gandhi was ignorant on matters of nutrition, subjecting himself and others around him to dangerously unhealthy diets, primarily as a function of his obsession with bowel movements.

  • Gandhi was fanatically opposed to all but the most minimal sexual activity necessary to procreate. Like many Hindus, he believed semen to be a precious bodily fluid stored within his skull, and that any emission diminished him. When he had a nocturnal emission, "he almost had a nervous breakdown."

  • Gandhi slept naked with teenage girls, ostensibly to test his vow of chastity.

  • Gandhi was greatly opposed to all modern technology above the level of spinning wheel, effectively enshrining poverty as an ideal. But oddly for such a luddite, he hand-picked Nehru as India's first Prime Minister, a Fabian Socialist committed to rapid industrialization.

  • Gandhi allowed his wife to die of pneumonia rather than be treated with an "alien" penicillin shot, but had no similar qualms being treated soon afterwards with quinine once he contracting malaria. He also had no problem having his appendix removed by British doctors.

  • To top it off, Gandhi treated his sons monstrously.
For what it's worth, Jason DeParle published a critical response to Grenier in the 9/83 issue of The Washington Monthly.